A Day In the Life of a Reading Teacher: It Matters to This Child by Donna Mansell


A Day In the Life of a Reading Teacher: It Matters to This Child

There are hard days being a teacher. For so many reasons. The policies that make no sense. The conflicting demands on our time. The parents who make things harder on the daily. The kids even, sometimes. They can push you to the edge. I've had my share of those kids, and probably then some.

I have one in particular right now who has given me a particularly hard time this year. He's fought me on everything. Rolling his eyes back in his head, refusing to look at the text, mumbling, sliding down in his chair. It's hard to get away from me in the small groups I work with though. I know he's probably had some rough patches in his life, and he thinks things aren't fair in so many ways. He checks out in class and has a hard time staying focused, even when someone (me or his teacher) is literally right on top of him. I've gone out of my way to connect with him though, because he needs it. Even when he's had a really rough group session, I make sure he comes in or leaves feeling heard whenever I can. He tells me lots of things on his good days, and even on his bad days I get to hear all about the daily "it," whatever "it" is. This is one of those kids who says he loves to fight because it is something he's good at. And yet, at the same time, has a very sweet heart and the best smile when you get one.

This week I am testing kiddos to see how they've done in the reading groups I am working with. I put this young man off until today so I could get him in the morning, and hope for the best. My hopes were set that he'd made good growth of course. And I really was hoping that this would be one of his good days where he was ready to shine and not be filled with anger, as is often the case. Every time I've tested him, he's told me that he wants to be reading the 4th grade books, because he's a 4th grader. Logical goal, of course. But he came to me in the fall reading at the end of 1st grade level.

So today we started testing. He had a bounce in his step as we walked to my room, and I could tell he was really ready. He crept up to the beginning 3rd, and then on to the mid-3rd grade tests. He was reading like I've never seen him do. He was attentive to details, corrected himself, made sure it sounded right, fixed phrasing. My mind was blown. So, he asked to do more. And because he was doing well, I let him go on. And on. I had to go get books from another teacher because I didn't have any in my room right then that matched his level. You guys. This kid read and passed the comprehension on a 4th grade text! Solid!

I had no idea he was going to fly so high! I was getting jittery and goosebumps as he kept asking to do more. I held my breath as he took on each new level! I told him how excited I was, and he was excited, too. He was on cloud freaking 9, and so was I. I have never seen him so happy and light. We talked about how he really can do hard things. And how he has to keep showing this effort in his classwork and on his tests.

We went to brag to the principal and I had him tell his story of coming to me at a 1st-grade level and now reading at 4th grade. The principal was genuinely shocked and elated too. We called home and talked to mom. He "tricked" her by saying he was in "trouble" ... then paused and exclaimed "because I'm too smart!" I hope she wasn't driving, because she was so excited. He told his teacher and the whole class. They asked him how he did it. He said he just kept trying and had a goal. How amazing for them to hear him tell his story and share that lesson. I have some other stories to share on this, but this one is one that is going to stick with me for a long time.

So today. Today was not one of those very hard days. Today was one that will forever stick with me and remind me why I do what I do. Even on the sucky days.

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Donna John
Love this! I cannot even imagine how hard it is to be a teacher these days. We thank you for doing what you do. That little boy will always remember his reading teacher. Donna Mansell
Elisa Schmitz
“We talked about how he really can do hard things.” This resonates so strongly. Love it! You are amazing! What a great story of perseverance, on both of your parts. Teachers are the real MVPs. I love this so much. Thank you for sharing. And more than that, thank you for all you do for our kids. You are so appreciated!! ❤️

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